MIAMI COUNTY — The Miami County Board of Elections met in special session Tuesday morning to hire a new deputy director.
The board unanimously approved hiring Merrit Luke Scott, currently of Columbus, for the position of deputy director.
“He was a very good candidate,” board member Ryan King said.
The rest of the board was confident in Scott’s ability to be an effective deputy director as well, with Chairman Dave Fisher saying, “He’s going to be a good fit.”
Fisher added later that he was looking forward for Scott to get started and that he believed Scott was going to be an asset for Miami County.
The board said they interviewed three candidates for the position out of six applicants.
Scott is currently employed at the Franklin County Board of Elections as a voter services clerk. Scott’s experience also includes serving as a council member on the Wellston City Council and later serving as the council president. Wellston is located in Jackson County with a population of approximately 5,000 people.
Scott also has two associate’s degrees from the University of Rio Grande in communications and political science, which Scott received in 2014. Scott graduated from Wellston High School in 2009.
Additional experience for Scott also included an internship with the Ohio Secretary of State and serving as a precinct elections official in multiple elections in Jackson County.
Scott was not present during the meeting. The board approved a starting salary of $47,486 for Scott, which was the same salary for former Deputy Director Eric Morgan.
The board has been without a deputy director for approximately four months since terminating the employment of Morgan in late January. The reason behind his termination remains unclear due to it being discussed during the board’s executive session, which was closed to the public.
Back in September, Morgan was the subject of multiple executive sessions held by the board. Following those private meetings, Morgan and an office clerk signed a workplace relationship disclosure form acknowledging that they were in a consensual relationship.
The decision to fire Morgan appeared to be made by former Democratic board members Dean Tamplin and Kelly Gillis as Morgan was a hire from the Miami County Democratic Party, although Gillis had already resigned from the board prior to Morgan’s employment termination. Morgan’s termination was unanimously approved by Tamplin, King, and former Republican board member Jose Lopez. A public records request revealed that Morgan was not issued a termination letter.
In other news:
The board also met with the Miami County Board of Commissioners Tuesday morning as part of a directive from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to discuss their need for new voting machines. The directive was issued to all county board of elections in Ohio.
“This is just a discussion of a statement of need for new voting equipment. We are under no obligation to buy,” Fisher said. “This is not going to be cheap … but this equipment is 12 years old.”
Fisher was confident that the elections are being conducted well, but he said that he was also aware that “there’s a perception out there” about the age and ability of the current voting machines. Fisher noted some issues with the touch screens during the last media test prior to the special election on May 2.
The board discussed the possibility of holding a vendor day with the county commissioners with different voting machine vendors after the board’s summer conference on June 21.
“They’re pretty much all in the same price range,” Fisher said, noting that there were increased costs with software and follow-up support.
The commissioners expressed their support of the need for new voting machines.
“There’s no doubt that we need new voting machines,” commissioner Bud O’Brien said.
It is unclear if the board will stay with the touch screen voting machines. Fisher noted that his preference is for optical scan, which uses a paper ballot, but Fisher wanted to give his “due diligence” to the county. O’Brien also later noted that the tabulation with the touch screen machines is “very quick.”
“We support the need for it,” commissioner Jack Evans said.
Evans commented on the funding for the new voting machines, which remains unclear as to whether or not the state will provide a percentage of funding for them.
King said that the board is going to continue to look at how much this is going to cost as well as what type of voting machines they are going to consider.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336